Q. I'm sorry about asking this because I know you don't want to focus on sex, but we women are naturally curious about where the borders are. What I mean is, how intimate can you, or do you, get together? Do you allow petting together? What about bathing together? Aren't their real dangers of things getting out of control?
We've had a number of questions like yours and I understand your wanting to be sure especially as you are thinking about entering a polygamous relationship. I think the question we have to ask ourselves often - and keep it in the foreground - is this: Is what I am doing honouring Christ?
The kinds of questions about sex that concern you are as relevent to monogamy as they are to polygamy. I have already written about sexual purity so I won't go into that here (see also, Echad Sex: Contemplative Intimacy in New Covenant Plural Marriage). Some polygamists won't discuss this issue because they think it's too private and whilst I can sympathise with their position to some extent I think on balance I am more concerned about the women's fears and that some matters need to be discussed openly. I cannot say how polygamists outside our community behave, of course, but only our own. You will have to ask them for their own positions.
Having asked ourselves whether our sexual or intimate behaviour is honouring to Christ, we must also ask whether any compulsion is involved. I make it a principle not to compell anyone to do anything. If a wife comes into the family who doesn't want to show any intimacy when others are around then there is a real question as to whether she mightn't be better off living what I call the 'multiple-monogamy' life-style, that is, living in separate homes. Though I would not expect a new wife to 'leap in' to the way I am with my present wives I would expect her to be working at it, albeit slowly. Above all, we want to feel natural in our home. Which is why we advocate longish dedications and betrothals for those who have personal problems. So I would expect a new wife to 'work at it', talk and pray it through with me and my other wives, until she felt comfortable. And those who are comfortable must occasionally be expected to make sacrifices for those who have various stumbling blocks to overcome. And there are many in this modern society.
If my ex-(first) wife wanted to return home and live in a separate home I would agree to that because the circumstances would be a little different. Time and healing needs to take place to restore broken relationships and that often requires a lot of time alone. But generally-speaking, for new wives, I would encourage close fellowship as much as possible.
There is no intimacy in our community during dedication (which is more of a brother-sister relationship) and minimal intimacy during betrothal. In the latter this would include holding hands, cuddling, very short mouth kisses and 'pecks on the cheek'. There is no petting of any kind. Anything that would arouse the passions and so set the ball rolling towards full intercourse, even if the latter did not take place, would be stopped. Thus for some even holding hands and cuddling might not be appropriate in betrothal. We are flexible in this matter, putting the Ruach (Spirit) first always.
We are always circumspect when others are around. We do not allow children to see more than holding hands, cuddling and light kissing - in short, anything that would be lawful for them to imitate between themselves. The border is a fine one and if we are unsure then we reduce rather than increase intimate activity. For close members of the family and friends who are accepting of our lifestyle we will do these things but for those who are not, or who are strangers, we display no physical contact whatsoever. We prefer to err on the side of caution rather than recklessness.
I think your question was about wives who are fully married so I will end by answering that. I will only say two things: